At its outset, I did not have high hopes for How I Met Your Mother's fourth season, but once I got to know your mother's fourth season (sorry), I found myself more in love with it than I ever expected. Somewhere around "Wooo!", the worm turned (and yeah, I'm sort of abusing that phrase, but let's just go with it). The season hit its stride -- and hasn't looked back. I know "The Front Porch" has elements in it that are less than popular, particularly among some hardcore Barney/Robin fans, but it's among my favorite episodes of the season. The writers and director use restraint with the more over-the-top antics -- leaving them in the background, so they only season the story; they don't overwhelm it. But best of all, like any good episode of How I Met Your Mother should, "The Front Porch" plays with our perception of time, takes risks with characterization, and thwarts the tendency to become overly romantic by being...unapologetically romantic. So, let's get to it -- shall we?
Over a shot of Ted and Karen happily entering MacLaren's, Saget!Ted narrates that in March of 2009, they had been dating for a few weeks. When get to the booth, not only are Lily and Marshall openly apathetic when greeting the couple, so are Barney and Robin. Say what you will about the Duke and Duchess, at least they're gracious enough to pretend they're oblivious to Ted's friends' open hostility. How bad is it? Marshall golf-claps when Ted announces they can't stay long. Then again, future-Ted is our narrator, isn't he, and he's less than reliable, so perhaps his friends' lack of manners and his own heaping helping of grace should be taken with a grain of salt.
Karen notices Robin's new diamond earrings. Robin takes her interest as a compliment, but of course Karen is working the conflict diamond angle, and is anything but complimentary, because she's the Duchess. And no, I'm not cheerleading for the diamond industry here, but when you really care about a cause, there's a time, a place, and a way to educate people about it -- one that engages their interest and (hopefully) wins them over to your side. Embarrassing them and condescending to them ain't never gonna get the job done. I don't care what the cause is. Karen sneers that exploited miners in Sierra Leone would be high-fiving Robin's bargain shopping, if only they had all their fingers, and then takes her leave, telling Ted she'll meet him upstairs. Once she's out of earshot, Robin says, "They only need one finger to give her what I'm thinking."